Vaping advertisements are making electronic cigarettes “more appealing” to teenagers, a study has found.
The survey, co-authored by King’s College, found a third of young people thought their adverts made e-cigarettes seem attractive.
The findings will fuel concern that vaping is becoming a new vice which is addicting young people to nicotine, rather than just an aid to quitting cigarettes.
It follows reports, including from Britain’s biggest addiction clinic, of a surge of under-18s becoming addicted.
Concerns have risen after 13 deaths linked to vaping in the US, where at least 805 cases of lung injury allegedly associated with e-cigarette products are also being investigated by authorities.
A British man, Terry Miller, 57, is thought to have died in 2010 from a lung disease linked to vaping, it has emerged. It is thought oil in his lungs from vaping fluid could have triggered lipoid pneumonia. An inquest recorded an open verdict.
Vaping has been linked to 200 adverse effects on UK e-cigarette users, including heart disorders, chest pains and pneumonia, according to government watchdog the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The study, led by the University of South Carolina and co-authored by the addictions department at King’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, along with the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, suggests further changes on how vaping is advertised are needed. Britain has banned vape advertising in mass media, but it can still be advertised on billboards, flyers and blogs, and in shops selling tobacco, vaping paraphernalia and liquids.
Social media posts of celebrities vaping, including Love Island star Olivia Attwood, were cited in the study
Researchers used data from a 2017 international online survey of 12,064
16 to 19-year-olds, looking at their exposure to e-cigarette ads.
Some 83 per cent of English teenage respondents reported seeing vape ads. After being exposed to the PR material in shops and online, 38 per cent of English youngsters said the ads made e-cigarettes seem “appealing”.
Around 40 per cent were exposed to vaping ads through websites and social media, the research found, while 36 per cent said they perceived that non-smokers were being targeted. The research was published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Dr Sara Hitchman, lecturer in addictions at King’s, said: “Our study suggests that additional efforts are needed to limit the appeal of vaping product ads to youth.”
Simon Cleverly, British American Tobacco’s group head of corporate affairs, said: “We are clear that all our products should be marketed responsibly, particularly in respect to ensuring that our communications are only directed towards adult consumers.
“We have strict controls in place to ensure our partnerships are appropriate and feature individuals over the age of 25.”
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